How the Lodging Industry Can Help the Environmental Movement

How the Lodging Industry Can Help the Environmental Movement

Independence Day in the United States is certainly a holiday worth celebrating. I hope my U.S. readers found time to celebrate it with their families and friends -- and guests. I will never forget the excitement in our country back in 1976 during the Bicentennial. The celebration went on for months. Gasoline at that time was priced at a little more than a dollar a gallon. Even at that price, a large crowd of people gathered in Boston and threw packages labeled “Gulf Oil” and “Exxon” into Boston Harbor -- kind of like the Boston Tea Party all over again, but not as effective.

I have been thinking about the United States' independence this past week. From an energy perspective, the country is far from independent. The United States imports almost 70 percent of its oil from other countries -- places like Saudi Arabia where, prior to this year, women were not allowed to enter hotels without a chaperone. Where freedom of speech and the press are restricted for everyone and public demonstrations are forbidden. Where political parties are not allowed, and where there is no freedom of religion. The next true Independence Day in the United States will be the day when we can proudly say that we no longer support repressive regimes with dollars spent on oil.

The travel industry is just as dependent, and just as addicted to the purchase of oil and gas from places where freedom is limited. Admittedly, it is difficult to think this way when pulling up to the pump for a vacation fill-up, while hopping on a plane for a business meeting or trade show, or while welcoming a guest who has just driven to your property. There are no quick and easy solutions, are there?

A Time for Leadership

Rather than doing nothing, I contend it is the travel industry's responsibility to demonstrate leadership during this transformative time in our country's history. Here is what I believe our industry's leading companies should do now to help the United States reduce its dependence on non-U.S. fuel sources.

  • Stop building inefficient buildings. Require all new buildings to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and/or Energy Star certification level standards. Raise operational standards in existing buildings to require energy efficient lighting, guestroom energy management systems and lighting control systems in all properties. This will help weed out those structures that are energy hogs.
  • Stop building hotels, motels, resorts and inns in outlying areas that require many miles of driving or flying to reach. Locate new properties in areas accessible to public transportation. This will benefit both guests and staff.
  • Where feasible, incorporate wind and/or solar technologies. This can happen with new and existing structures. Develop and support funding mechanisms that incentivize these additions. Implement geothermal systems for heating and cooling.
  • Reward guests and staff who drive fuel-efficient vehicles. Replace on-property vehicles with fuel-efficient ones -- even electric ones where possible (at resorts, etc.) Make bicycles available to guests and staff. Encourage walking and provide walking maps to guests. One-third of Americans are obese. Walking and bicycling could help a lot of people.
  • Offset the carbon impact of your business and offer guests the option to offset their travel through the purchase of renewable energy credits. This will help support the development of a renewable energy infrastructure.
  • Lobby and encourage those organizations that can have the greatest energy reduction impact in the shortest period of time -- the automotive, utilities, trucking and airline industries, for example.
  • Purchase as many goods as possible that are made or grown locally. You will help to reduce the demand for oil needed to transport the goods long distances.
There are many more steps our industry can take. Please feel free to send me your suggestions and I will share them in future columns.

Glenn Hasek is the editor of Green Lodging News.